The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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February 13, 2014

Partners in harmony: Riverblenders quartets put best chorus forward for Valentine's Day

Riverblenders quartets put best chorus forward for Valentine's Day

For 41 years, the Mankato Riverblenders have never passed up a chance to break out into song.

They've harmonized at schools, churches, sporting events, weddings, bars, concert halls, nursing homes and businesses. On Valentine's Day, you name the place, the Riverblenders will bring the melody. If circumstances require, they'll even serenade your sweetheart over the phone.

"We'll sing just about anywhere you want us to go," said Riverblenders charter member Jeff Grimmer. "We've sung over the phone to Iraq, and that was really cool. We've sung over a PA system to someone who was out on a route, but he didn't like it at all."

Valentine's Day has been the Riverblenders' busy season for at least two decades. This year, five sets of barbershop quartets will be making the rounds in the Mankato area, crooning standards like "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" and "Heart of My Heart" and doling out cards and long-stemmed roses to unsuspecting Valentines.

"It's a really fun thing," Grimmer said. "Some people cry -- you get the tearjerkers -- some people are happier than others. It goes the full gamut of emotions. Schools are always fun. We sing to women, sometimes men, but with different verses."

For the past five years, every Tuesday night at the Wine Cafe about a dozen of the Riverblenders gather around a table in the spirit of friendship to sing their favorites between bites of pizza and sips of beer. The group rearranges pop classics in the vein of "Wonderful World," "Hello Mary Lou," "Georgia On My Mind" and "I Saw the Light." Guests are always welcome; on a recent February night, Grimmer even dragged a very reluctant and tone-deaf reporter into the singing festivities.

"When we come here to sing, it's just for the fun of it," Grimmer said. "What we do here, 95 percent of the time, is sing songs that we don't sing at rehearsal, songs that we've sung way back 40 years ago. We go around the table, everyone gets their turn to pick a song. And some of them we sing over and over again because we like them so much."

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